The John Seymour School for Self Sufficiency


The late September course offers students a great opportunity to be involved in harvesting and preparing the garden for winter.     As usual all the subjects in our comprehensive syllabus will be covered.

The Spring Courses.     Never have we had such a cold and wet week for our hardworking students!     Snow on the hills and rain on the coast.     But never mind - we managed to make the best of what little sun there way.      Monday was a full on day working in the garden and we were lucky enough to have a fine evening for a walk down to Dunstanburgh Castle on Thursday.      A great number of seeds were sown - and they are now growing well.    The students all had a chance to wrestle with the rotavator - and we harvested a bumper crop of sprouting broccoli.     (There are now about 40 bags in the deep freeze!) 

The garden in May.     This should please the April students who did all the sowing!

May Garden

Despite the cold and rain we all had a most enjoyable week - long evenings putting the world to rights in front of a warm log fire.      As always, the basket making was a great success - perhaps a little more challenging than the students expected but here they are.

April baskets

A Good Year in 2015      Altogether we had a good season last year. Wonderfully interesting and inspiring students from all corners of the planet. Plenty of music and games and, of course, lots of lovely home produced food. And my small campaign to re-introduce the traditional scythe for controlling grassland and weeds has resulted in sale of 5 new scythes. I am currently increasing production so I now have 6 lovely new scythes ready for the 2016 season. The two handled scottish or northumbrian scythe is much the best tool for controlling tough weeds like thistle, nettle and (particularly) brambles/tree seedlings.    My new scythes sell for 100 - they are a joy to use and last a lifetime!     Drop me an email if you are interested.

Winter Garden  Winter is the great time for feeding the soil.    Here are photos of the rhubarb patch (in a tight corner), the new asparagus bed and the tidy bunch of blackcurrant cuttings now sprouting against the south facing wall.    

Northumbrian "A" frame scythes for sale
New Scythe 
The Renovation Story

  In 2014 our courses moved to the beautiful coast of north Northumberland where we have begun the renovation of a fine old Victorian kitchen garden.    The renovation work provides an unusual opportunity for our students to be involved in the development of the garden infrastructure and planning.     It's many years since the garden was in full use but the site is lucky enough to have a massively high brick wall along its east and north sides.    The wall was built from the dutch bricks which were used as ballast by coal ships from Newcastle in the nineteenth century.  

The old farmhouse has been lovingly restored and now includes a pond and wildflower meadow.

The wildflower meadow

The kitchen garden lies on the north side (to the left of the picture).     The soil is a heavy well drained loam with few nasty weeds - no creeping buttercup or couch, just a few nettles.    The biggest challenge was digging out a few very old tree stumps whose roots have gone under the walls.   You can see the massive (recently re-pointed) south facing wall which will give the garden such a beneficial micro-climate.  

The School

Will Sutherland has run self-sufficiency courses for more than 20 years, teaching the methods and philosophy developed by John Seymour.     Will worked for over 10 years with John Seymour in Ireland and, with John, created the New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency published by Dorling Kindersley.   In 2010 we took our courses to the wine growing region near Bordeaux where the warm weather, swimming pool and excellent local wine made a nice change from the cooler climes of Ireland.    Now we are moving back to cooler climes to take up the challenge of re-creating a classic old kitchen garden.  

STLCourse LunchStLegerBaskets

What our students said:

“Thank you so much: we really enjoyed the course and found it VERY interesting and helpful. And what a beautiful place in which to do it”

“Thank you for a wonderful holiday. The food has been amazing and we have really enjoyed the Class. You have a beautiful place here.”

Such great people. Such strong spirits. Great to know you guys!'